Q What is the primary objective of the Acts of Memory program?
The Acts of Memory program will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the fall of the Phnom Penh with events and activities that aim to engage young Cambodians on issues of memory, identity, and historical understanding. Recognizing that memory - or how a society remembers its own history - underpins identity, the Acts of Memory program aspires to highlight the resilience of Cambodian society to not only overcome tragedy, but also to rebuild and strengthen Cambodian arts and culture.
Q Who are the primary and secondary audiences for Acts of Memory?
The primary target audience for Acts of Memory consists of youth in Cambodia, defined as anyone aged 35 and under. This group, importantly, was born after the Khmer Rouge period and has no direct experience of what happened. Oftentimes, historical understanding of the period is limited due to a weak education system and the difficulties of a traumatized generation of survivors to reflect upon the period. We believe that it is important to engage Cambodian youth in these issues so that they can start to approach history differently. Rather than avoiding, rejecting, or being victimized by history, we are advocating for critical engagement with the past as a means of building or imagining a different future.
Q What is the relationship between Acts of Memory and Season of Cambodia?
Season of Cambodia will play a supporting role in the Acts of Memory program as a presentational platform, linking several of the Festival’s projects with events scheduled for Acts of Memory. For example, Acts of Memory will feature for the first time in Cambodia the acclaimed art installation “Flowering Parachute Skirt”, a remarkable and challenging patchwork assemblage of textiles largely constituted by US-dropped bombing parachute from air raids in Cambodia between 1965-1973, by renowned visual artist Mr. Leang Seckon.
Q What is the overall goal that Acts of Memory would like to achieve by the end of 2015 program?
The Acts of Memory program aims to engage Cambodian youth in making connections between art, culture, and history. In this effort, we hope that more youth will become more aware of the work of such organizations as Bophana Center and Cambodian Living Arts, and then make use of the resources of these organizations, which are already publicly available. We hope that youth will be encouraged by the activities and events of the Acts of Memory program such that they continue to examine their own history through the archives housed at Bophana Center, and explore the classical and contemporary art scene in Cambodia - from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, to Kampot and Battambang.
Q What does the Acts of Memory program consist of?
Acts of Memory is broken down into 5 categories of live events with which audiences can engage: Transmissions, Ceremonies, Arts & Performance, Film, and Humanities.
Q How can people get involved?
We invite audiences and community members in Cambodia to join with us on April 17, and throughout 2015, in committing "acts of memory". For those in Phnom Penh, we will be conducting a "Prateep" ceremony at the convergence of the rivers with candles and flower being released into the water. Those who are not in Cambodia can arrange for candles and flowers to be released in the names of their loved ones. This service is provided free of charge, but donations in any amount would be appreciated as it will help us offset the costs of the event. Donations will be collected by the Season of Cambodia fund, which will divide gifts between the two partner organizations: Bophana Center and Cambodian Living Arts.
For those outside Cambodia, we ask that you take time, whether on April 17 or any other day, to ask a loved one what that day, those hours, that moment was like. We ask people to engage with their local communities and reflect, discuss, and move the dialogue forward on history, memory, and the future.
Q Why did you select the year 2015? Why start with the April 17, 1975 date instead of the Jan 7, 1979 date?
The Jan 7 date is recognized and officially celebrated as the liberation of Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge forces. We wanted to offer an examination and commemoration for the April 17, 1975 date since its historical significance is not often discussed.
Q How will social media or new technologies play a role in the program?
It will be a way of sharing historical information in the form of photographs, video, and text from the Bophana Center collection as well as from publicly-available archival footage of Cambodia from other sources. Our strategic aim for social media is to use the Season of Cambodia platform to raise awareness among young people in Cambodia about the past.
Q Any connection to other events in the region or around the world?
We are an independently run program, with no affiliation to any other memorial events in Cambodia or around the world.